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Stephen Hawking Unveils "Time Eater" Clock 198

gyrogeerloose writes "Stephen Hawking unveiled an unsettling clock in Cambridge on Friday. Designed by John Taylor — a British horologist and inventor whose thermostatic switch is incorporated in millions of electric appliances worldwide — the clock was conceived as a tribute to another British inventor, John Harrison. Harrison invented the grasshopper escapement in the early 18th Century, which resulted in extremely accurate mechanical time keeping and was instrumental in solving the Longitude Problem. Taylor's clock, which in entirely mechanical in operation but has no hands, uses a fearsome-looking 'demon grasshopper' as its escapement. 'I... wanted to depict that time is a destroyer — once a minute is gone you can't get it back' Taylor said. 'That's why my grasshopper is not a Disney character. He is a ferocious beast that over the seconds has his tongue lolling out, his jaws opening, then on the 59th second he gulps down time.' It also (purposely) only tells correct time once every five minutes. An excellent video of the clock in action, with an explanation of its workings by its inventor, is available on YouTube."
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Stephen Hawking Unveils "Time Eater" Clock

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  • Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mazarin5 ( 309432 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @05:48PM (#25087919) Journal

    That's just awesome. It looks like a grasshopper walking along the top. Lights spiral out from the center, until it reaches the creature, and then it starts again.

    But it says that it doesn't have hands - it has LEDs all around it, which displays the time. I think that's pretty much the same thing, no?

    • it does look wicked-cool. Hollywood could make a whole movies based just on that monster and the "time-eater" concept. If only that queer-looking brain-monster at the end of The Watchmen looked nearly as cool as that!

      Only gripe is that it looks very out of place on that gaudy-looking gold face.
    • It also seems really fucking loud. I'm sure that's going to be nice for the students with rooms opposite.
    • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Informative)

      by Zwicky ( 702757 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:56PM (#25088827)

      But it says that it doesn't have hands - it has LEDs all around it... I think that's pretty much the same thing, no?

      Sort of. The inventor is still accurate in saying that it doesn't have hands though ;) (& if you get too close to that grasshopper neither will you!)

      The bit I find interesting is the mechanism for the LEDs. Because of my way of thinking I had assumed that the LEDs would be controlled programmatically. It is actually a clever entirely mechanical implementation using vernier slits (3:42 in the Youtube video). I find it fascinating. I'll admit to having never heard of them so it has that whole "woah!" appeal for me.

      Besides, I'm not into bling but this thing is ostentatiously cool and doesn't IMHO look half bad. I'd love to own one if it wasn't so loud as to annoy the neighbors. Oh and if it wasn't one of a kind and I had that kind of money to hand of course.

      Some people don't seem to like it and that's fair enough. All the same I find it altogether novel.

    • Re:Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 20, 2008 @09:36PM (#25089439)

      Lights spiral out from the center, until it reaches the creature, and then it starts again.

      Not true, it's not spiralling at all. Look closely at the video! I live just across the road from this clock, and since yesterday it has continuously drawn crowds. And the LEDs are behind the clock and permanently switched on - the sensation of the moving lights is created purely mechanically from two rotating disks with holes in them (one with 60 slots and the other with 61). The attention to detail in this device is remarkable: e.g. the "chronophage" grasshopper on top of the clock blinks with its eye (sometimes double-blinks), and this is controlled through a separate mechanical clock-work.

  • For that much they could have at least made it a self-winding automatic. jeebus.

  • STEVEN?? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I know he might not be Paris Hilton, but he should be here on slashdot. It's STEPHEN HAWKING.
  • who is it (Score:4, Informative)

    by sveard ( 1076275 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @05:56PM (#25087979) Homepage

    Steven Hawking? or Stephen Hawking??? I've never heard of a Steven Hawking

  • by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @05:57PM (#25087983) Journal
    That is one minute of my life I'll never get back.
    • by spazdor ( 902907 )

      Just wait 8 hours. It's also a time excreter.

    • You need not be concerned about the loss of that minute. That minute is still there, from now until time ends.

  • Just a clock (Score:4, Insightful)

    by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @05:58PM (#25087991) Journal

    Misleading description...from TFA:

    The author of A Brief History of Time was guest of honour when the unique clock, which has no hands or numbers, was revealed at Corpus Christi College.

    Yeah, so the only think Hawking had to do with this clock is: he was a guest at its unveiling.

    But the clock is only accurate once every five minutes - the rest of the time the lights are simply for decoration.

    And the clock itself really isn't much of a clock. The only mildly interesting thing about it is the "time eating" grasshopper that travels around the outside.

    • Hawking is a big name and he knows it. He probably made a point of being there to help Taylor out - a little bit of positive publicity.

      And if Hawking thinks this is cool enough to promote it, then it's probably wothwhile checking it out.
      • He probably made a point of being there to help Taylor out - a little bit of positive publicity

        gotta help out the homies...I went back and watched the video again (this time with the sound on) and the design inspiration for the concentric circles was very interesting, I must admit. Pity they couldn't have made it so it is accurate to the second...I'd still put it on my wall

    • by Prune ( 557140 )

      > "And the clock itself really isn't much of a clock. The only mildly interesting thing about it is the "time eating" grasshopper that travels around the outside."

      This is a ludicrous statement, considering this is one of the most advanced mechanical clocks in existence (electricity is used simply for the lights and a motor to rewind the clock). []

  • Is there a work-around here? I wanna see....
  • John Taylor freely switches between general relativity and philosophical relativity. Don't watch if you get easily irked by such musing.
    • Re:Relativity (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @06:09PM (#25088061) Journal
      So did Einstein. The quote about time spent with a pretty girl compared to sitting on a hot stove was his answer when someone asked him to explain relativity. Not as good as his explanation of the wireless telegraph (imagine a cat stretched between two cities. When you pull the tail at one end, it makes a noise at the other. Wireless telegraph is like that, but with not cat).
      • by spazdor ( 902907 )

        Actually, the quote about time spent with a pretty girl compared to sitting on a hot stove was the sound of Einstein resigning himself to international fame and celebrity, despite the fact that none of his fans actually understood any of his accomplishments.

  • LEDs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @06:09PM (#25088067) Homepage

    He blew it. He sould at least have used a carbon-arc and hundreds of mirrors and lenses.

  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <> on Saturday September 20, 2008 @06:14PM (#25088117) Homepage Journal
    This clock would have fit right in with the sets for The Dark Crystal.
  • by nuttycom ( 1016165 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @06:27PM (#25088235)

    ... that the inventor isn't named "Reg"

  • Come on, this is slashdot. Do we need to articles about how to waste even more time?
  • Is it just me, or does the guy the the Youtube video sound exactly like Salad Fingers?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 20, 2008 @07:00PM (#25088473)

    It does appear to use blue leds - But there is no circuitry to control their 'flashing'.

    This clock is a masterpiece of mechanical engineering.

    The time is displayed with the lights by rotating a series of annular overlapping disks which have slots in them. The slots are precisely engineered in a "vernier" fashion, so they don't all line up at once, but only as the clock very subtly moves. There isn't a "seconds" hand, rather there is a "hand" that seems to rotate around the entire clock once per second, and it purely shows the rotation of the fastest outer annulus, with which the grasshopper escarpment engages.

    The thing is, if this were purely "art" then it wouldn't work.

    You're forgetting that all technologies are "art".

    The defining feature that makes such things be labelled as tech rather than art is that tech works.

    Tech doesn't just refer to "electronic". In fact if this clock were electronic, it would be one hell of a lot less impressive.

    This clock works, (perhaps with a "bug" or two...) therefore it is tech. It doesn't "cop out" and use cheap and easy electronics, therefore it is impressive. It's designer shows he can make mechanical assemblies with such precision that it's dynamic motion can be used to keep time - a skill which is becoming rapidly lost with our current state of cheap electronics from China.

    Is is Important Tech? Perhaps not, unless some circumstance conspires to require precise timekeeping in say an environment where electronics dare not go. Maybe some day we might need clocks that work near a lot of high energy ionising radiation, who knows.

    • > It doesn't "cop out" and use cheap and easy electronics, therefore it is
      > impressive.

      It "cops out" by using LEDs instead of doing something clever with mirrors and sunlight or similar. They're an ugly anachronism.

      • by tgd ( 2822 )

        Its a clock going on a building... that has to be readable at night...

        Mirrors and sunlight won't hack it.

        Cool, maybe, but this is a case of an engineer actually knowing, designing and building to the requirements, not what is cool.

  • I was annoyed that I forgot about this. I even walked about one street away from the unveiling near the time but I just wasn't thinking.

    I'm going to take a look at it Monday on my way to work. It looks quite cool in the videos I've seen.
  • you actually can get the minutes back by reversing time [].

    There are real time eaters out there, they exist beyond three dimensions and exist in several dimensional space. If you saw how they really look, you'd go insane like I did when I first saw them.

    First learn about super strings [] and then we can discuss how the universe and multiverse actually work. Hawking got a lot of things wrong, the Hawking paradox was but one of them [] and the information and matter and energy does not simply disappear, it ends up in a different dimension. One you Terrans have not discovered yet. But keep guessing, you'll find it eventually and then learn how to reverse time.

    • The rotating cylinder, while an improvement in some respects, suffers from the same limitation as all other relativity compatible time travel schemes. You can only navigate to points in space time occupied by (certain areas of) the rotating cylinder. So while it would be cool to start one of these up, and maybe someone from the future could come out of it (unless future Luddites destroy it), it won't help to go back and change history.

      And of course there is the usual practical caveat - the sheer size of t

      • Interesting ideas, but just to let you know there will be electro-magnetic fields a human being will pass through with such a device that would stop the heart and fry the brain unless it was properly shielded. When anything goes through an Einstein-Rosen Bridge, you have to properly shield it. Once you uncover the grand unified theory and prove that, you will discover how to shield against electro-magnetic fields to prevent damage. Another way is to convert the matter into energy, pass it through such a device, and then convert the energy back into matter after passing through, much like those Star Trek transporter technology if you don't mind your molecules being taken apart and put back together.

        Black holes are not really black, there is a nano aspect to them in the lower dimensions that does not resemble a singularity as is commonly thought, and in some cases they are nicknamed as time eaters because they eat time and space as well as matter and energy, but regurgitate it back up in a different dimension as the Super Nova or high gravity that caused it to form punched a hole in our universe to a different universe or dimension, and the black hole appears hungry and eats all matter, energy, time, and space, to the observer, and the other end is somewhere else where everything it ate comes out eventually.

        Paranoia is a survival trait, but how does a person from the future know they can trust someone in the past to not change things so their future won't exist anymore? Trust is a two-way street.

        Still Chronodymanics and Chrononaughts haven't been developed or thought up yet, as this century is still stifled by atheistic and secular scientists who lack the imagination and do not even believe that such science or technology is possible and don't believe in the nano dimensions or other universes or dimensions, so they force their "version" of the Truth(TM) on us that nothing exists outside of our universe and that there are only three dimensions and completely ignore space and time as dimensions, ignore Spinosa and Einstein's theories on God and all the work on it that Hawking based on Einstein and Spinosa's work in "A Brief History of Time which explains the scientific theories that came from Christianity and religion and what God really is and the universe. That makes this modern science with a very myoptic "caveman" view of reality. But we are learning new information every year.

        Ironically 4000 to 6000 years ago some of the beings who helped our civilizations gave knowledge of the universe and it was to be a user's manual for the "program" our machine (universe) runs but it got easily confused for religion when it was actually science and all of the parts the people 4000+ years ago couldn't understand rejected it and rewrote it so it made more sense to their "cavemen" mentality, but the philisophies and theories came to form ancient science and moved away from "magic" as alchemy evolved into chemistry, astrology evolved into astronomy, theology evolved into physics, etc and we got modern science thanks to the Aztecs, Babylonians, Jewish people, early Christians (Monks in a Monastery came up with scientific theories before Newton did).

        God is a time traveler, he traveled back to the past to become his own son, and then traveled back to the beginning of time and became his father, and then traveled again and became the holy spirit, and has tried to change history for the good of humanity. In the original time line, Hitler won WWII, but God changed that, yet in doing so other bad things had happened, but not as bad as Nazi Germany controlling the entire world. This universe is an accident, really, The Devil worked for God and thought he could do a better job but started a war in Heaven that created this universe, and God has been cleaning things up every since. Since The Devil stole some of God's ideas, but flawed them, Jesus had to be born to try and fix things and set us back on the right path. We are all part of a program and don't know it.

        Not everyone will believe me, most will

  • ...once every 5 minutes? Pray tell, why would that be? Not being new here, I made a valiant effort to not RTFAs, only to be drawn in by this teaser and succumb to the wiliest of temptations. Yes, I RTFAs, but I am no more enlightened than before...

  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @09:09PM (#25089259) Homepage

    Notice how the intersection of the slots "moves" at a rate faster than the actual movement of the material having the slots. Now imagine something containing those slots moving at a speed approaching the speed of light relative to another stationary thing like it. You are located near the end the slot intersections are approaching. But from your perspective, the slot intersections would appear to be going away from you because the nearer intersection events arrive first.

  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Saturday September 20, 2008 @10:24PM (#25089725) Homepage Journal

    John Harrison's story chronicled in "Longitude" is the story of the greatest unsung hero of science and engineering since the Renaissance. Working on his own for nearly 50 years and in the face of fanatical opposition of the Board of Longitude Society he singlehandedly invented modern chronongraphy and all the particular horological advancements required up through the invention of electronic time pieces. To that end he solved the longitude problem which directly lead to British Naval supremacy as well as all commercial shipping and the advent of safe ocean passage without loss of life or cargo.

  • This is on my route to work. Another bloody gaggle of tourists standing in the road for me to try to avoid mowing down with my bike.
  • From TFA's video clip:

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